Thursday, April 24 2014 3:47 PM EDT2014-04-24 19:47:30 GMT
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For years, doctors have been warning against too much sun exposure.
"What's happening is now we are paying for our sins of years of sun exposure in the past, so we see the incidents of malignant melanoma increasing at a very rapid rate," said Dr. Michael McPhee, an oncology surgeon with ProMedica.
Because of this, many people are opting for spray tans, believed to be a safer way to get that beach look. But is it?
Over the last year, there have been more and more reports on the risks of a chemical used in spray tans called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA is a chemical that is sprayed on the skin and, because of the amino acids in the skin, it changes the color to give you that golden glow.
But DHA in tanning booths as an all-over spray is not actually approved by the FDA.
In fact, the FDA's website says:
"The use of DHA in ‘tanning' booths as an all-over spray has not been approved by the FDA, since safety data to support this use has not been submitted to the agency for review and evaluation."
It could be because of potential risks.
According to one study done by a panel of medical experts, DHA has the potential to cause genetic alterations or DNA damage, although the tests were not done on actual humans.
"The FDA hasn't weighed in on that because there isn't enough industry-sponsored data on the harmful effects of inhaled [DHA], or DHA exposed to these sensitive areas," Dr. McPhee said. "We don't have the information data."
And the lack of information can be confusing. The problem is not when DHA hits the skin, but when it's inhaled or ingested. As those who've spray-tanned know, it's virtually impossible not to inhale when in a confined booth.
"When you go to these various tanning booths to get your spray, there is no guarantee that you cannot get exposure to critical areas, vulnerable areas such as the eye, mucus membranes, nose, mouth, or inhale it for that matter," McPhee said.
So how can you protect yourself?
Some tanning salons across the country are now offering masks, nose plugs, even eyewear and lip balm to cover areas of the face, including a salon in Adrian, Michigan.
Megan McLemore, the manager of Malibu Tanning, says it's extremely important that they educate their customers.
"Our customers come here for their image, but we are very concerned for their safety as well, so we train our employees to follow the regulations and recommendations of the FDA to keep our customers safe," she said.
Malibu Tanning makes protecting yourself easy by providing nose plugs, eye protection, and lip balm can be purchased. These are three simple steps to take that Dr. McPhee says are important.
"If you're going to go to these places, you have to make sure you do everything possible to prevent exposure to the eyes, and use whatever means to protect the mucus membranes," he said.